The Young Man Leaving Home

by John Angell James, 1844


To do good is God-like. To do evil is devil-like. And we are all imitating God or Satan—accordingly as we are leading a holy or a sinful life. It is said in Scripture, that "one sinner destroys much good." He not only does not do good himself—but he destroys good in others. Instead of doing good, he does only evil. He not only leaves unassisted all the great means and instruments for improving and blessing the world, and has no share in all that is being done for the spiritual and eternal welfare of mankind; but he opposes it, and seeks to perpetuate and extend the reign of sin, and the kingdom of Satan! He corrupts by his principles, seduces by his example, and leads others astray by his persuasions. Who can imagine, I again say, how many miserable specters await his arrival in hell—or follow him there to be his tormentors—in revenge for his having been their tempter! He is ever scattering the seeds of poison and death in his path!

True religion happily saves all who possess it from this mischief—it makes a man an instrument of good, and not of evil—to his fellow creatures. True religion renders him a blessing—and not a curse; a savior—and not a destroyer; a physician to heal—and not a murderer to destroy! He lives to do good—good of the noblest and most lasting kind—good to the soul—good to distant nations—good to the world—good to unborn generations—good for eternity! He is a benefactor to his race—a philanthropist of the noblest order. By a godly example, he adorns true religion, and recommends it to others, who, attracted by the beauties of holiness as they are reflected from his character—are led to imitate his conduct.

He connects himself, while yet a youth, with a Sunday school, and trains up the minds of his students in the ways of virtue and true religion. He associates with a Tract Society, and visits the habitations of the poor with these admirable tracts of Bible truth. As his life advances, his property increases, and his influence becomes more powerful—his sphere of usefulness widens—his energies strengthen, and his devotedness becomes more intense. He consecrates a share of his money to the funds of Bible, Missionary, and various other societies—and gives his time, wisdom, and labor to these noble organizations. He thus lives not for himself alone—but for the glory of God—the spread of true religion—and the salvation of souls. To do good is his aim—his delight—his business!

He catches the spirit of the times, and is a man of the age, and for the age. In secret he swells the cloud of incense that rises from the church, and which no sooner touches the throne of grace than it descends in showers of blessings upon the world. He doesn't need the intoxicating cup of worldly amusement—as a relief and diversion from the toils of business, and the cares of life—but drinks a purer draught from the fountain of living waters which he is engaged in conveying to those who are sinking into eternal death! He is consulted on every new 'project of mercy', and called on to assist in working it for the relief of human wretchedness. His name is enrolled on the list of public benefactors—and pronounced with respect by all who know him. The blessing of him who was ready to perish, comes upon him, and he has caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. Thus he lives.

A happy death terminates a holy and useful life. "And I heard a voice from heaven saying—Write this down! Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from all their toils and trials; for their good deeds follow them!" He is received into glory by the Lord Jesus, who with a smile bids him welcome, saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!" Transcendent scene! glorious spectacle! His usefulness is seen in living forms of everlasting glory! The good he did on earth follows him to heaven, and is a part of it. He will never cease to reap the rich reward of doing good, as with adoring wonder and rapturous delight he hears his name repeated with grateful praise in the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, by those whom he was the instrument of conducting to the celestial city!

Young man, have you ambition? Can your soul be fired with the name of glory—or the prospect of noble deeds? Have you a pulse that beats to the sound of immortality, that word which has raised and led to action an army of heroic spirits panting for fame? Oh, here, here, behold an object worthy to kindle this ardent flame in the human bosom! Here is the high road to renown—and here alone! All else beside true religion—and that which true religion produces—shall perish! The garlands which are hung around the busts which have been placed in the 'temple of earthly fame' shall perish—for the temple itself shall perish in the great conflagration. But here is immortality. Souls are immortal! True religion is immortal! Salvation is immortal! And so is the renown of him "who converts a sinner from the error of his ways, and saves a soul from death!"

This renown is within your reach. It is not an object of only ministerial ambition—nor only within the power of great wealth, or lofty genius, or commanding influence only—but always attainable by real piety—even piety in youth—and piety in humble life. The honor of being useful—the glory of being instrumental in saving souls—is placed within the reach of the youngest, poorest, and most illiterate aspirant after the mighty and truly sublime achievement!

Never, never, my young friend, were there such opportunities, or such means of holy usefulness, as there are now—and never were there such incentives to it. The world is in movement, and so is the church. The age of inactivity is past, the era of general action is come. The armies of good and evil are marching to the scene of conflict—and mustering in the valley of decision. The gospel trumpet is blowing, and calling the people of God to the battle, which is to rescue the world from the slavery of sin and Satan—and restore it to God. Victory is certain, and the shout of it will one day be heard, ascending to heaven from this regenerated earth. Will you be idle? What! at such a time? Will you have no share in such a triumph?

But this is not all. Will you be in the routed army, and belong to the conquered foe—which you must be if you are not truly pious? The cause of true religion is but one, and all the pious belong to it, and are identified with it; and the cause of sin is but one, and all the ungodly are identified with it. True religion is destined to victory all over the earth, and every true Christian does something to accelerate the triumph, and will share the honor of the glorious conquest!

What, then, is a life of sin, of worldly pleasure, of mirthful wastefulness—compared with a life of true religion! What a contrast in their nature—and oh! what a contrast in their results! The former is the course of a demon—the latter of a ministering angel. And while the former shall eat the fruit of its evil doings forever in the pit of destruction—the latter shall gather its everlasting reward from the tree of life in the paradise of God!